Video-witnessed wills legislation extended

During the pandemic, the government introduced legislation allowing the witnessing of wills over Skype and Zoom. Earlier this week, the government announced an extension of this legislation until January 2024.

For Dominic Raab MP, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, the extension came as a ‘common sense measure’, giving vulnerable people the knowledge that their wills will be recognised, even if they are isolating and forced to have them witnessed via video. 

He said: “‘I want people to be able to use technology safely and securely to ensure they can record their final wishes no matter the circumstances’. 

signing wills

This legislation, implemented last year, amended the Wills Act 1837, stating wills must be signed in the presence of at least two witnesses, either physically or virtually. However, wills still need to be signed by two witnesses who are not its beneficiaries, and electronic signatures are not allowed. 

The Law Society found that since the temporary measure’s implementation, around 14% of legal professionals involved in making a will used software such as FaceTime or Zoom to witness wills.

Stephanie Boyce, the Law Society’s president, said: “Solicitors have bent over backwards to ensure their clients have been able to make valid wills despite the restrictions during the pandemic. Those who have used video witnessing have told the Law Society it has been a useful option to have – to help vulnerable people set their affairs in order when making a will in the presence of witnesses is not possible.

‘The Law Society continues to take the view that the most effective reform of the law would be to give judges powers to recognise the deceased’s intentions even where their will may not have been witnessed, in line with the Wills Act.

“We look forward to the forthcoming Law Commission report on wills reform which we hope will expand on this and other issues to improve will making in England and Wales.”

The law commission is now considering whether to make this temporary measure permanent.

Stone Rowe Brewer LLP provides high-quality legal services for individuals and businesses. Our private client lawyers are practical, proactive and user friendly. If you want to learn more about the video-witnessed wills legislation extension or have any general queries, please call us on 020 8891 6141.